Reflecting on the first few years of medical school

First-hand tips and advice on starting and settling into your early years at medical school.

Third year medical student Holly Egan is in her sixth year of university after completing a BSc in Biomedical Sciences, and has managed to pick up a few tips along the way to help new medical students settle into life at university. Here she shares her advice.

It feels very surreal to say that I am three quarters through my life as a student, and only have three more years left of medical school before I am fully immersed into life as a junior doctor.

Having taken a longer route to get here, I have realised that there are quite a few life lessons I have mastered and some tips I have taken under my belt to help me get the most out of student life.

Take your time to find your friendship group

In those first few days, weeks and months of university life, you can feel rather overwhelmed.

Finding friends and people to spend time around can feel like a rush - everyone but you appears to be finding 'their people' and you can feel lost at sea trying to ensure you are on board a boat with lots of people next few years.

However, it really is important that you take time to get to know a variety of people and don't 'settle' into a friendship group. You are at medical school for a long time, and your friends will be the ones you rely on most in times of stress, anxiety, sadness, happiness and uncertainty.

There is time at every stage of medical school to make new friends, so don't limit yourself to one friendship group. Be honest with your self and your future will be much happier.

Comparing yourself to your peers gets you nowhere

It is often second nature in the field of medicine to want to 'do better' and 'be better' than your peers, but ultimately medicine is a team sport, and from the get-go you will need to be able to work well with others.

If you are constantly comparing yourself, rather than working with others to build everyone's skills, then there will be no gain for anyone. If a colleague has a skill you lack, why not seek help from them and offer to help them with something you have expertise in.

First year is the best time to get out of your comfort zone

It really is true that you have much more time in the first year than any other year of medical school - and this isn't a coincidence.

The medical schools understand that you're new to the environment and so are sure to give you enough time to try new non-academic activities, meet new people and explore the new world you now live in.

Why not make the most of this while you can? Try out new hobbies, meet up (if COVID allows) with different people to get to know a range of individuals, and learn about this new you - most people become different version of themselves at university so take some time to get to know yourself!

Don't rush into deciding who to live with

This is a big one, in my opinion. When you first move into university accommodation, you are likely going to have no choice who you share with, but from second year onwards the choice is (mainly) yours. And this choice needs to be a good one.

Living with people full time is very different than just seeing them in medical school for classes, and ensuring you make the right decision for you can really make your life a lot easier.

Try not to make a rash decision for fear you will end up with nowhere to live. Be sensible, make rational decisions and put yourself first!

Meal prep

Being in university 9-5 or on hospital wards 8-6 really does take its toll, so be sure to spend an hour or so at weekends planning and preparing some easy lunches and dinners that you can eat cold or reheat for those long days.

You might not enjoy the process, but when you get home tired and hungry, you certainly will. To make the process easier you can batch cook with housemates. This splits the bill, preparation time and washing up! Win win.

Visit home

Holidays shouldn't be the only time you plan to go home (if COVID allows). Moving to a new place is exciting, but don't forget about the people that helped you get there. They too will be living through these special moments, and a visit home every now and again will be nice for them and you.

Going back to your routes can also be a great way to destress and completely get away from medicine for a couple of days. It is hard to not get swept up in student life, but having those moments back home or even just out of your bubble in a different place can be really refreshing, and will prepare you well for your potential FY1 move across country.

With five years of higher education under my belt, there is still a lifetime of learning for me to do. With that I hope to gather more tips and advice to pass onto the next generation of medics, so that they are able to transition to each phase with a little more confidence than I had!

This page was correct at publication on 20/09/2021. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

Holly Egan

by Holly Egan

Holly Egan is a third year medical student at the University of Manchester, and Biomedical Sciences graduate from Newcastle University. Holly is aiming to pursue a career in paediatrics with time spent teaching undergraduates.

Holly is currently co-president of Young Academics Manchester, secretary for Preston Oncology Society, a medical student ambassador for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and peer mentor coordinator within her medical school.

When Holly is not studying or documenting her life inside and outside of medicine on her social media channel, she can be found ice skating and spending time with her family.